MURFREESBORO – Ravenwood junior Steven Karl not only will attempt to defend his Class AAA singles state championship Friday at Old Fort Park, but he also will try to bring home the fifth title for his family.
His brother, Sean, won the championship in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
It sounds like a recipe for pressure, but Karl said that is not the case.
“Actually, last year I felt a lot more pressure than this year,” he said.
That’s because at that time he still was trying to emerge from the shadows of his older brother, who was on the tennis team at Tennessee during last year’s state tournament.
Sean died in November after battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“Last year was my year to kind of prove myself,” Karl said. “Now that I’ve been through it and won it, that makes a big difference. I’m playing a lot better and much more comfortable out there now.”
Karl certainly appeared at ease Thursday, coasting through the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Bolton senior Kenny Miller and then the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Farragut junior Gary Carter.
“I didn’t have too much trouble,” Karl said. “I was a little tight serving it out at the end, and (Carter) played well at the end of the match, to his credit.”
Karl will face Andrew Morton, a junior from Science Hill, in the finals at 9 a.m. Friday.
Morton defeated Hendersonville junior Kato Richardson 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals after Richardson battled back and eliminated Siegel senior Taylor Graalman 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
“I was definitely playing better with Andrew than the last time I played him,” Richardson said. “I held serve a lot more, my forehand was a little more solid. My backhand, he didn’t pick on it as much.”
Richardson said a couple of key mistakes ended up costing him the match.
“It was just one or two little things I did wrong, but that’s all it takes sometimes,” Richardson said.
A-AA doubles: The Middle Tennessee Christian School boys doubles team of Will Reeves and Thomas Goodwyn kept Murfreesboro from being shut out in the finals.
Reeves, a freshman, and Goodwyn, a junior, beat the Boliver Central doubles team 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and then avenged last year’s loss to Notre Dame with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
“It really surprises me that we were the only ones to advance to the finals; there are so many great players in Murfreesboro,” Goodwyn said. “It puts a bit of pressure on us being the only ones left, but we’re happy to carry the torch for Rutherford County.”
DII-A singles: University School of Nashville’s Will Johnston and Will Lippolis won the doubles title last year.
Lippolis had a conflict this year and couldn’t play in the regionals, so Johnston moved into the singles where he advanced to the finals with a 6-1, 6-3 semifinals win over Josh Woodman, a junior from Lausanne.
“It’s very exciting to be in the singles this year,” said Johnston, who is a senior. “It’s different and I like it.”
Johnston also breezed through the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over University School of Jackson’s Dalton Hockaday.
“The people I played have been very good. I was just having a good day,” Johnston said. “I hit my ground strokes well, I hit my serves well and then everything just fell into place.”
DII-AA singles: Montgomery Bell Academy sophomore George Harwell had a difficult match on his hands in the semifinals but managed to hold off Memphis University School senior Paul LaHue 6-7, 7-5, 6-3.
“It probably was the best match I have played in awhile,” said Harwell, who had a much easier time in the quarterfinals, beating Nick Green from Christian Brothers 6-1, 6-0. “It was a tough match; (LaHue) is a really good player, and it’s tough to see him go out like that his senior year. I just kept with it and kept grinding and pulled away at the end.”
Harwell will face McCallie senior Cody Gubin in the finals at 9 a.m. Gubin defeated Ensworth freshman Miles Jackson 7-5, 6-0 in the semifinals to advance.
Girls: Philips uses strong serve to reach DII-AA finals
MURFREESBORO – Brentwood Academy senior Mackenzie Philips brought a more deadly serve into the Division II-AA singles tournament, which helped her end up in the championship match.
Philips will play Baylor sophomore Drew Hawkins in the finals at 11 a.m. Friday at Old Fort Park.
Philips lost in the quarterfinals in 2014.
“My serve has improved quite a bit,” she said. “My flat one has just gotten a lot harder and so it’s been more effective in getting free points.”
Philips defeated St. Agnes senior Caroline Taty 6-2, 6-0 in the quarterfinals Thursday and then Hutchison junior Grace Garrott 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.
“The scores don’t really reflect the matches; I mean, both girls were really strong players,” Philips said. “But at the end of the day I was just a bit more consistent.”
DII-A: University School of Nashville senior Francesca Eluhu has come awfully close to the winning the state title.
In 2013, she lost in the finals, and in 2014 in the semifinals.
Eluhu is back in the finals after beating Tori Hockaday of University School of Jackson in the semifinals 6-0, 6-2.
She will face St. George’s Claire Sullivan at 11 a.m. Friday.
“I really want to win this year since it’s my last shot,” Eluhu said.
And she likes her chances.
“My serve is going really well and my ground strokes are actually the best right now that they’ve been all season,” Eluhu said. “Hopefully I can keep it up.”
Playing for the title: In a battle of two freshmen, Brentwood’s Somer Henry beat Oakland’s Kylie Humphrey in the AAA singles quarterfinals and then defeated Stone Memorial senior Ali Harris 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals.
That sent Henry into the championship, where she will face Dobyns Bennett senior Josie Rogers at 11 a.m.
Rogers beat Clarksville freshman Sofia Phillips 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals.
Fayetteville junior Skylar McDonald and Elizabethton junior Danielle Vines are set for a rematch in the A-AA singles.
Vines beat McDonald 6-1, 6-0 in the 2014 finals.
McDonald won the championship in 2012 and 2013.
She coasted into the finals Thursday by defeating Sara Myers of Knoxville Catholic 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals and Nelina Wooton of Obion County 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals.
– Mike Organ, The Tennessean